What is a forest school?
A forest school is an inspirational process that offers children and adults regular opportunities to appreciate and enjoy their local woodlands. A forest school nurtures an understanding and respect for natural places. Participants experience nature at first hand through a series of engaging and achievable tasks. The forest school experience brings learning to life and improves an individuals ability to work co-operatively while offering the opportunities to take risks, make choices and initiate learning.
Where does the idea come from?
Forest schools originated in Sweden during the 1950s and was a way of teaching children about the natural world. The idea was adopted by Denmark as an important part of early years provision. The concept was introduced to Britain in 1995 by Bridgwater College.
What is it like at a forest school?
A forest school group explores a local woodland on a regular basis, typically ten visits over ten weeks. During that time the group will get to grips with all sorts of woodland activities that will help to build an understanding and appreciation of the woodland. The fire circle is central to all that happens at forest school. The fire is the focal point for discussing the day's activities and a place for socialising.
The activities are always hands-on and will often require the use of tools such as bow saws and fixed blade knives. As a group becomes more comfortable with living and working in the woodland the programme becomes more learner led, a journey of discovery directed by the participants. Regular visits to the woodland site provide plenty of opportunity for discussion about, and observation of the natural world. Many of the groups become involved in conservation tasks as part of their forest school, typically, constructing bird feeders and bird boxes or by creating mini beast homes from the brash that is collected whilst coppicing. Some groups are involved with small mammal surveys and there is plenty of scope for moth and bat recording during an overnight stay in the forest.